Amazon wants to ship your stuff before you buy it
A new patent filing demonstrates one more way the online retailer hopes to leverage its vast trove of customer data to edge out rivals.
By Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal
Amazon.com (AMZN) knows you so well it wants to ship your next package before you order it.
The Seattle retailer in December gained a patent for what it calls "anticipatory shipping," a method to start delivering packages even before customers click "buy."
The technique could cut delivery time and discourage consumers from visiting physical stores. In the patent document, Amazon says delays between ordering and receiving purchases "may dissuade customers from buying items from online merchants."
So Amazon says it may box and ship products it expects customers in a specific area will want – based on previous orders and other factors — but haven't yet ordered. According to the patent, the packages could wait at the shippers' hubs or on trucks until an order arrives.
In deciding what to ship, Amazon said it may consider previous orders, product searches, wish lists, shopping-cart contents, returns and even how long an Internet user's cursor hovers over an item.
Today, Amazon receives an order, then labels packages with addresses at its warehouses and loads them onto waiting UPS, USPS or other trucks, which may take them directly to customers’ homes or load them onto other trucks for final delivery.
It has been working to cut delivery times, expanding its warehouse network to begin overnight and same-day deliveries. Last year, Amazon said it is working on unmanned flying vehicles that could take small packages to homes directly from its warehouses.
In the patent, Amazon does not estimate how much the technique will reduce delivery times.
The patent exemplifies a growing trend among technology and consumer firms to anticipate consumers' needs, even before consumers do. Today, there are refrigerators that can tell when it’s time to buy more milk, smart televisions that predict which shows to record and Google's (GOOG) Now software, which aims to predict users' daily scheduling needs.
It's not clear if Amazon has deployed or will deploy the technique. A spokeswoman declined to comment.
But the patent demonstrates one way Amazon hopes to leverage its vast trove of customer data to edge out rivals.
"It appears Amazon is taking advantage of their copious data," said Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester Research (FORR) analyst. "Based on all the things they know about their customers they could predict demand based on a variety of factors."
According to the patent, Amazon may fill out partial street addresses or zip codes to get items closer to where customers need them, and later complete the label in transit, the company said. For large apartment buildings, "a package without addressee information may be speculatively shipped to a physical address . . . having a number of tenants," Amazon said in the patent.
Amazon said the predictive shipping method might work particularly well for a popular book or other items that customers want on the day they are released. As well, Amazon might suggest items already in transit to customers using its website to ensure they are delivered, according to the patent.
Of course, Amazon's algorithms might sometimes err, prompting costly returns. To minimize those costs, Amazon said it might consider giving customers discounts, or convert the unwanted delivery into a gift. "Delivering the package to the given customer as a promotional gift may be used to build goodwill," the patent said.
More from The Wall Street Journal
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You would most likely not get it at your residence as anything that is sent to you and you did not order it, is yours free of charge. That has been the law for years. If they keep asking you to send it back, just tell them you did not receive it. They have no proof you did unless you sign for it.
This was put into place to stop the corruption of vendors who would send you something cheap and demand payment for it. Most likely more than it was ever worth.
So, they're going to ship you a package you didn't order and figure they'll make a fortune off the people who'd just rather pay for an order they didn't want than to take the time and effort to re-package and return it.
It's an interesting idea, but, in my opinion, not a very good one. Amazon customers will get so mad at being sent things they didn't order and then be expected to pay full price for them. If Amazon does do this, they should at least make it an option you have to sign up for or else they will get A LOT of angry complaints from annoyed customers (and I'd certainly be one of them!).
After you get everything on your wish list and shopping cart (whether you ordered it or not) YOU PAY OR GET A SPANKIN
---- CASE CLOSED ----
I'd certainly be sending them a bill for my time and gas if I were having to make trips to return things I did not order in the 1st place.
I understand the concept they are TRYING to set in place, but I believe there will be many items left to gather dust on shelves, waiting for an actual order. People's tastes change from time to time and what was working one day may no longer be desired. Better rethink this idea...not to practical..
If they send me something I did not order...I am under NO obligation to send it back...either at their expense or mine.
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